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The Judith Gap Wind Farm is probably not a destination in itself but it is an interesting feature on the Montana landscape. The wind farm is located on both sides of US 191 between Harlowton and Judith Gap MT.
Judith Gap Wind Farm
The project was first conceived in 2000 but it was not until January of 2005 that a contract was signed that committed Northwestern Energy to purchase the power produced. As soon as the contracts were signed contractors got to work and the first of the giant turbines began to generate power in October 2005. By early 2006 the planned 90 towers and generators were in place. Today the wind farm produces clean power on a consistent basis and as of late 2008 there is talk of increasing the size of the project.
The windmills in this project are huge. The top of each tower is 262 ft above the ground and is capped by a large housing that serves as the hub for the three bladed generator. Each of the blades is more than 125 ft long which means that the top height of the spinning blade in nearly 400 ft above the ground. The engineers that design the windmills try to make them as high as possible to take advantage of smoother more consistent wind and these imposing windmills can be seen by travelers more than 25 miles away.
The blades are designed to begin to spin in winds below 8 mph. At about 33 mph they reach maximum electricity production and when the wind speed gets above 56 mph the turbines automatically shut down to protect the blades from spinning too fast. The blades are not designed to spin rapidly with the normal rate being 10 - 20 rpm. There is a single blade displayed in "Blade Park" in Judith Gap. when examining this blade one is struck both by how massive it is and by how flexible it is. These blades are marvels of construction.
These are very efficient wind generators and each unit is capable of producing up to 1.5 megawatts of power which is enough to power somewhere between 350 and 400 homes. In full production the 90 machines produce 135 megawatts which represents about 8% of the total power used by Northwest energy.
If you ever have cause to drive through this area you will certainly see this giant wind farm. Be sure to stop in Judith Gap to see the blade on display and you will be impressed (by the way, you can find some of the best milkshakes in MT in Judith Gap). The Judith Gap Wind Farm is a great new power source for Montana and we can all expect to see more of these types of facilities in the near future.